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Registered: 02/26/01
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The disarming facts
    #1974751 - 10/03/03 01:36 AM (14 years, 7 months ago)

The disarming facts

Friday October 3, 2003
The Guardian

The interim report of the US-British Iraq Survey Group confirms what many have come to suspect in the months since Baghdad fell. In sum, Saddam Hussein's regime did not possess useable biological, chemical or nuclear weapons when the war was launched. Iraq could not therefore accurately be said to pose a current or serious or imminent threat to its neighbours and the west, at least in terms of WMD, as the US and Britain claimed. Less expected, perhaps, is the strong probability, on the basis of these preliminary findings, that such proven Iraqi WMD capability as did exist was largely destroyed in 1991, as Saddam maintained. "We have not yet found stocks of weapons," the ISG says. And, it concedes, it may never find them.
The ISG report does relate persuasive evidence that Iraq was trying clandestinely to retain the ability to produce proscribed weapons, particularly biological weapons. On the basis of interviews with Iraqi scientists and military and other sources, it seems clear that the regime was only partially cooperating with Hans Blix's UN inspectors in the months before the war, as Dr Blix indeed suspected. It speaks of a systematic effort to hide incriminating activities that continued, amid the general security breakdown, even after the war officially ended. Taken at face value, this bolsters claims that Saddam was in material breach of UN resolution 1441. The ISG's sources lead it to conclude that Saddam would certainly have resuscitated his moribund WMD programmes if sanctions had been lifted at a later date. There is also limited confirmation that after 2000, Saddam had begun trying, without much success, to develop longer-range missiles.

But that said, the main thrust of the report amounts to a damning, official indictment of the principal intelligence and therefore of the political judgments upon which the case for war, in Britain at least, was based. Here is what Tony Blair said in the Iraq dossier published in September last year: "What I believe the assessed intelligence has established beyond doubt is that Saddam has continued to produce chemical and biological weapons, that he continues in his efforts to develop nuclear weapons, and that he has been able to extend the range of his ballistic missile programme." According to the ISG, all three of these assertions are wrong. There was no current production of biological or chemical agents; and no armed shells or missiles have been found. If Saddam had stockpiled previous agent production, that, too, if it existed, is missing or destroyed.

There are no caches of anthrax, ricin mustard gas, VX and the other horrors of which we were repeatedly warned; there are no mobile laboratories, as George Bush prematurely claimed. The report says that "Iraq did not have a large, ongoing, centrally controlled chemical weapons (CW) programme after 1991... We have not yet found evidence to confirm prewar reporting that Iraqi military units were prepared to use CW against coalition forces." On nuclear weapons, it is the same story: "We have not uncovered evidence that Iraq took significant post-1998 steps to actually build nuclear weapons or produce fissile material" (as indeed the IAEA concluded before the war). Saddam certainly wanted to build or buy bigger missiles. But he had not managed to do so and apparently lacked even the 20 al-Hussein missiles he was thought to have kept.

Here is not the familiar picture of a rogue state bristling with offensive terror weapons, as painted by the government. Here instead is a picture of a malign regime whose aggression and arms ambitions had in fact been very effectively restrained, curbed and contained over the preceding years. In any dispassionate analysis, Iraq in March 2003 was not a serious threat in terms of WMD. Iraq had already been disarmed.

Don't worry, B. Caapi

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